Menstrual cup: an alternative to tampons?

Menstrual cup: an alternative to tampons?

Sustainability and environmental protection are also important topics in the field of feminine hygiene today. Menstrual cups offer a sustainable alternative to tampons and pads during your period. But what are menstrual cups, and how are they used? In the following, you can find out why menstrual cups are becoming increasingly popular, what advantages and disadvantages the hygiene article offers and what needs to be considered when buying one.

What are menstrual cups?

If you’ve never heard of a menstrual cup, you probably wonder, “What is that?”. The menstrual cup has many names, including menstrual bell, menstrual cup, menstrual or period cup. This is a product that is inserted into the vagina during the monthly period and collects the menstrual bleeding there.

It is shaped like a cup with a stem at the bottom. It is usually made of a flexible material. This is often silicone or rubber, but there are now also models made of thermoplastic elastomers.

Menstrual cups work similarly to tampons and, when properly fitted, are just as comfortable. However, they do not cause large amounts of rubbish and therefore have the advantage of being kinder to the environment. Because after use, the cups are not thrown away but cleaned and reused.


What are the benefits of a menstrual cup?

Of course, the focus of every menstrual cup is its reusability. But other advantages make the product stand out:

  • It offers a high level of comfort when fitted correctly.
  • There are no chemicals included since most models are made of medical silicone.
  • The application is very hygienic.
  • It is entirely odourless during use.
  • It has a long shelf life of up to ten years.
  • It is ideal for sports, both cycling and horseback riding.
  • Their use does not injure the hymen.
  • It is mainly made from purely vegan materials.
  • It is a cheap alternative to other feminine hygiene products in the long term.

Another significant advantage is that you can now buy them in almost every drugstore, and there are a few manufacturers. So you can find the perfect model for your use.

Disadvantages and risks of the menstrual cup

However, using a menstrual cup not only has advantages, it also has a few disadvantages:

  • Many women find it difficult to change their menstrual cups in public toilets.
  • If inserted incorrectly, it can be pretty uncomfortable.
  • To use them again, they must always be immaculately clean, which means, among other things, that they have to be boiled.
  • Depending on tolerability, there is a risk of infections or bladder infections.
  •  It is not suitable for women who use an IUD as a contraceptive.

However, some disadvantages can be eliminated with a bit of practice.


Are menstrual cups dangerous?

If you choose the suitable capacity, a menstrual cup can remain in the vagina for between eight and twelve hours – with a larger diameter, a more extended period is theoretically possible.

Just like with tampons, there is always a risk of infection with menstrual cups that remain in the vagina for too long. This is known as Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) or colloquially “tampon disease”. Although this disease is extremely rare, it should still be taken seriously. The risk is about the same as with tampons.

TSS is caused by a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus. Typical symptoms include:

Toxic shock syndrome: how to prevent it

To minimize the risk of illness as much as possible, it is recommended not to wear menstrual cups for more than six hours. It would be better to use pads at night. According to the manufacturer, tampons can also be worn at night if you change them right before bed and after you get up.

In addition, choosing a menstrual cup made of higher-quality plastic is advisable since the risk of developing TSS can be increased with inexpensive models.

If TSS is suspected, it is advisable to remove the menstrual cup immediately and consult a doctor, as the disease can lead to kidney and liver damage and organ failure in the worst case.

Which menstrual cup is the right one?

When purchasing, the question always arises as to which menstrual cup is right. The cup’s capacity and degree of hardness are of great importance here.

Regarding the question of which size or which capacity is suitable, every woman has to make her own decision. Both small and large models are available. One is made for heavier days, the other for lighter days. Depending on the manufacturer, they hold between 20 and 46 millilitres of blood.

A woman loses about 40 to 50 millilitres of blood during an average menstrual period. If the period is heavier, it can also be about 80 millilitres. For most women, a model that is in the middle range is usually sufficient. Which size you choose depends on which size you feel comfortable with. Therefore, it is advisable to try different sizes at the beginning.

About the degree of hardness, the firmer the material, the easier it is for menstrual cups to unfold after insertion. This makes more challenging cups particularly suitable for beginners, although some women find the feeling of “popping open” annoying. You should feel With softer cups after inserting them to see whether they have wholly unfolded or the dents are still noticeable. A medium degree of hardness is often a good compromise.


How many menstrual cups do you need?

Menstrual cups generally have a long shelf life. They can be used for up to ten years with proper care and storage.

A single cup is sufficient as long as a standard period occurs every monthHowever, if you want to be absolutely sure, you can also purchase a second one. This makes it particularly easy to switch when you’re on the go. You can then replace them without spending a lot of time cleaning them.

Getting a second menstrual cup is also a good idea if your periods vary in strength. In any case, one thing is sure: the more experience you gain with the different cups, the more likely you are to find the perfect cup size for your needs.

How do you properly insert a menstrual cup?

There are several things to consider about the correct use of the menstrual cup because it is only comfortable and unproblematic to use if it sits correctly.

Each menstrual cup is made of a flexible material that is easy to fold. This not only has the advantage that it is easy to insert but also adapts relatively well to the body’s contours.

The following instructions will help you to insert the menstrual cup :

  1. First of all, you should wash your hands thoroughly. 
  2. To correctly insert a menstrual cup, it must first be folded. Either this folding is done lengthwise, or you press them together and tuck one corner of the top edge down and to the side.
  3. Now insert it into the vagina with the opening first. This can be done standing, sitting or squatting, as it is most convenient. The insertion works similar to a tampon.
  4. Once it’s in, it can be inserted a little deeper, thanks to the integrated handle. But how far should you introduce them? The same rule applies to the cotton wool counterpart: it only fits appropriately when you can no longer feel it. The menstrual cup is usually located in the lower third of the vagina so that the handle can still be easily reached with the fingers.
  5. Last but not least, you check the correct fit. But how do you know that the menstrual cup is sitting correctly? To check this, insert your finger into the vagina and around the menstrual cup. This way, you can also check whether it has opened completely. If not, this can be fixed by turning or tilting it slightly.

How do you remove the menstrual cup?

During use, the cup may become a little stuck to the vaginal wall. However, this does not pose a problem when removing and can be remedied with a slight pressure against the handle, as this quickly releases the resulting negative pressure. It can then be easily removed by pulling on the handle – if necessary, you can tilt it slightly.


Instructions for correct cleaning

To use the menstrual cup again, it is necessary to clean it beforehand. This procedure helps to ensure that no germs get into the vagina and that you are primarily protected against infections.

It makes sense to boil the cup before using it for the first timeThe best way to do this is to place them in boiling water in a large saucepan for about 20 minutes. Tip: Stick it in a whisk or small colander so it doesn’t touch the bottom of the hot pot and suffer damage.

During this period, boiling the menstrual cup constantly is unnecessary. During this time, it is usually sufficient to empty them after each use, rinse them first with cold water and then with warm water, and clean them with a mild, oil-free liquid soap. When the period is over, you let it boil out again for about five minutes, and you can use it again for the next menstruation.

By the way, When you’re on the go, it’s enough to rinse out the used menstrual cup at the sink and store it in a practical bag. Thorough cleaning is possible at home. However, if you do not dare to clean the cup at the sink in public toilets, there are cleaning cloths that are ideal for this purpose. They also come in handy when you need water on hand.

Seven frequently asked questions about the menstrual cup.

There are always questions and ambiguities about the menstrual cup, as many women need help determining where to get the appropriate advice. We have compiled the most frequently asked questions for you below:

  1. Should the menstrual cup be removed during intercourse? The cup is not a contraceptive, so it should be removed before having sex. In addition, it would only be a nuisance due to its relatively deep seat.
  2. Who is a menstrual cup suitable for? A menstrual cup can be used even before the first sex, even during the first period. It does not damage the hymen and is easy to use due to its flexibility. Of course, it can also be used if you have already given birth to a child. It is only not suitable for women who wear a spiral.
  3. Is there overflow protection? Not. This means that if it is kept the same in time, it can also overflow. However, you learn when to change them over time, so overflow can usually be prevented.
  4. What’s the best way to store them? It is best to place them in a cloth pouch for storage when not in use. Most manufacturers supply this. On the other hand, storing them in a plastic box is not recommended, as the material inside cannot breathe.
  5. Does the cup damage the vaginal flora? In contrast to a tampon, a menstrual cup does not dry out the vaginal flora. The prevailing milieu is, therefore, not negatively influenced. The naturalness is thus preserved.
  6. How much does a menstrual cup cost? Depending on the manufacturer, a cup costs between 15 and 30 euros. Compared to tampons, however, this expenditure pays for itself very quickly.
  7. Which manufacturers are there? The best-known manufacturers on the market are Meluna®, Lunette® and Merula®. However, there are many other manufacturers of menstrual cups.


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